Archive for October, 2013

On the failures of Obamacare

October 30, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

I’m reading a lot about the recent problems with Obamacare. For everyone complaining about this new program, however, I would ask “You say Obamacare is bad, but compared to what?”

I’m on COBRA, having left a job a few months ago. I shopped around on the open market PRE-Obamacare. The prices were already high, even for high-deductible coverage. My wife, who walks briskly every day and who is in very good health was deemed uninsurable because of four separate reasons, all of which were total bullshit (one was that she broke her ankle last year, and it had substantially healed by the time we applied for coverage). The for-profit insurance companies have been out there cherry-picking and leaving families in desperate straights. I know of one family that has been paying almost $40,000/ year because two children are fighting depression and the husband has some physical injuries (though he is working). This is all PRE-Obamacare. For all of those people who want to blame Obamacare I would like to remind them that things were terrible before Obamacare. Coverage was shrinking and prices sky-rocketing BEFORE Obamacare.

Not that I’m a big fan of Obamacare–we need Medicare for all–some reasonable level of care for all Americans, combined with many of the strategies offered by “Bitter Pill,” the blockbuster Time Magazine article published a few months ago. We were lucky to get anything at all accomplished in Congress given the abject corruption. There are many aspects of the so-called health care system that need immense rehab, and Congress is not up to the task. Half of Congress wants to destroy Obamacare and replace it with “Fend for yourself, and good luck not getting fleeced by huge profit-driven companies, including all of those huge “non-profit” hospitals who are gobbling up your favorite doctor’s medical practices.”

I fear for many people out there. Too bad ordinary folks can’t afford lobbyists. If they did, we could bring some sanity to the prices charged by many providers and Big Pharma. Finally, as Dylan Ratigan has written, we also need to reconceptualize health care as “Help me, my family and friends live long and prosper” instead of “Don’t let me or anyone I know die.” We need to have courage to face our deaths with dignity in order to reset our priorities in a meaningful way, but there is no sign that this is likely.

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Thinking laterally, or maybe giving up

October 29, 2013 | By | Reply More

Fascinating video lecture by Dylan Ratigan. I’m in the process of reading his recent book, Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry. It’s an extremely well written book that succinctly explains many of the problems faced by Americans (including chapters on Wall Street and Health Care).

In this video from October, 2013, however, Ratigan suggests that writing the book was a waste of time, although it might serve as a useful inventory of issues.

I have a hard time believing that Ratigan believes that. Seeing him deliver his talk, and receiving several impassioned email blasts from him, it sure seems that he is still putting up a good fight, though it is a fight that will be extremely difficult to win, and maybe he is exhausted from the fight.

Dylan writes (in a mass-emailing that I received today) that he wanted to tell “stories of those using distributed power to solve old problems in new ways.” I’m all for grass roots action and organizing, and I do believe in the power of reframing. But to win back the country, we will also need people like the author of Greedy Bastards to identify particular issues, lay out the history and propose workable solutions. Occasionally David beats Goliath, but it’s a great story because it only rarely happens.

I’m wondering whether Ratigan was demoralized by the long battle, has taken refuge away from the battle, and is gearing up to get back into the game. that is my hope.

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Capitalism vs. Free Enterprise

October 25, 2013 | By | Reply More

According to Thom Hartman, these two concepts are often confused. In fact, he urges that we ditch capitalism and embrace free enterprise:

If you ask someone like Rand Paul, he’d say somebody participating in this sort of system is a “capitalist.” But the cleanest definition of a capitalist is someone who uses their money – their capital – to make more money. Some capitalists do this by investing their capital in the stock market; others do it by investing in other people’s start-up businesses: they are called venture capitalists.

These kinds of capitalists do play their part in our society. Sometimes, they help small businesses get off their feet. But here’s what you won’t hear on Fox Business or CNBC: capitalists aren’t that productive and they aren’t actually necessary. Many are just like Paris Hilton: they sit around on their butts by the pool all day waiting for their dividend checks to come in. They make money while contributing absolutely nothing to the rest of society. And here’s the thing: free enterprise works just as well without capitalists, capitalism, or even venture capitalists. Worker-owned cooperatives are just as successful as any business backed by a massive Wall Street loan. . . . Too much capitalism is actually dangerous. All the major economic crises of the past 200 years were caused by capitalists on Wall Street trying to use their money to make more money.

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Russell Brand schools Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman

October 25, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

Here’s the scenario: Jeremy Paxman continually tells Russell Brand that he has not right to be heard because he doesn’t bother to vote. Brand explains to Paxman that voting is a farce that makes voters complicit in the rampant political/corporate corruption. Invigorating discussion that is well worth your time.

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The beginnings of multi-cellularity

October 23, 2013 | By | Reply More

Fascinating story told by Carl Zimmer, illustrated by yeast studies.

Scientists suspect that the first step towards a complex multicellular body like ours is for cells to evolve to live in primitive clumps. There may be a lot of advantages to living this way. It may be harder for a predator to eat you, for example. At the University of Minnesota, a team of scientists led by William Ratcliff and Michael Travisano figured out a way to create this kind of natural selection in a lab. As I reported last year in the New York Times, they were able to get yeast–which normally lives as single cells–to turn into simple multicellular clumps in a few weeks.

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The re-framing necessary to move away from talk of health care death panels

October 23, 2013 | By | Reply More

Here’s another excellent and succinct analysis by Dylan Ratigan, part of an mass emailing he recently sent out. Allowing conservatives to argue about “death panels” is a big mistake and here’s why — and BTW, the time to make policy is not as we gather around very sick people challenging each other as to who can spend the most to to extending someone’s last breaths by 3 months, bankrupting healthcare in the process. We need to grow up and get our heads out of fantasy-land. Let’s redefine healthcare in terms of sustainable and meaningful goals. Ironically, there is date that those who claim to be most confident in the existence of an afterlife insist on the highest rate of last-minute desperate expenditures. Here’s Dylan’s email:

Dear Friends,

Generally speaking, there are only two ways to earn money.

1. Charge a fee for goods or services.

2. Charge a mutually agreed upon percentage based on a future outcome based on the newly created value. This percentage can be in the form of equity or commission.

As it stands, healthcare in America is based on the first model. This creates a system with many, high fees generated by acute and traumatic care. The chart above, from this report by the International Federation of Health Plans, shows how much we are paying compared to the rest of the world:

In reality, this care is for only 5 percent of us at a given moment, yet accounts for 50 percent of what each of us spend on the service regardless of whether or not we are using it.

If this unfortunate reality upsets you, please relax…close your eyes….and imagine for a moment a healthcare model that uses the second model of income generation. One that is based on equity or commission based on a future outcome.

[More . . . ]

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Present day leaves

October 21, 2013 | By | Reply More

One of my photographer mentors advised that I try to shoot SOMETHING every day. And this morning I finished reading Phil Zimbardo’s “The Time Paradox,” from which I learned (for the 800th time) that my perspective is skewed way toward future time orientation, which causes me to miss out on the present, especially ordinary things that are actually quite stunning. Therefore . . . I gave myself an assignment to take photos of leaves from the backside, illuminated from the front by direct sun. I tried to simply enjoy their beauty, but couldn’t help contemplating their incredibly sophisticated function.

IMG_2216 Leaves

IMG_2261 Leaves 2

IMG_2299 Leaves 2

IMG_2321 Leaves 2

IMG_2324 Leaves 2

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Dangerous Intersection supplemental posts over at Facebook

October 20, 2013 | By | Reply More

I’m working on some longer articles for Dangerous Intersection at the moment, though I’m not publishing at DI as often as I did several years ago. However, I have lots of plans to address quite a few exciting topics here. This will be the location for extended commentary and my own substantive articles.

In the meantime, I’ve been posting many links to worthy articles over at my Facebook page. I’m publishing some of those materials only at Facebook, not here at DI. If you are interested in tapping into those very short articles and links, simply send me a Friend Request at Facebook.

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Pure Ayn Rand: Not dead yet, somehow.

October 20, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

Matt Taibbi takes aim at an amazingly bizzare Forbes article written by Ayn Rand devotee named Harry Binswanger. I was curious about Ayn Rand back when I was 18, but I moved on. Binswanger hasn’t and, in fact, has doubled down. As always, Taibbi’s serious message is wrapped in entertaining prose:

It reads like an Onion piece, just hilarious stuff. I mean, Jesus, even Lloyd Blankfein himself didn’t go so far as to take the “God’s work” thing 100% seriously, and here’s this jackass saying, without irony, that the Goldman CEO literally out-God-slaps Mother Teresa.

The thing is, for all its excesses, Mr. Catyanker’s piece does reflect an attitude you see pretty often among Rand devotees and Road To Serfdom acolytes. Five whole years have passed since the crash, and there are still huge pockets of these Fountainhead junkies who genuinely believe that the Blankfeins of the world are reviled because they’re bankers and they’re rich, and not because they’re the heads of unprosecutable organized crime syndicates who make their money through mass fraud, manipulation and the shameless burgling of public treasure. In this case you have a guy who writes for Forbes, a business publication,and apparently he isn’t acquainted even casually with any of the roughly 10,000 corruption cases involving Blankfein’s bank.

Taibbi’s article contains a succinct rundown of many of the ways Goldman Sachs actually makes money. Hint: It’s not by producing goods or services helpful to ordinary Americans.

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